This post is part of a series looking at misquoted verses of the Bible. Click here to see others.
I decided to dust off an older series and share my take on a significant passage that is often misquoted. I’m prompted to blog this after I recently received an email from someone asking for help understanding this passage.
The misquoted passage says: “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one!” (Luke 22:36).
The email I got about it said: “It’s one of those ‘I do not think it means what you think it means’ passages, but my problem is that I don’t really know what it means.” Any email that quotes the Princess Bride is sure to get a response from me.
Is Jesus telling us all to go out and buy swords (which today would be guns)? This question is especially relevant right now as an evangelical pastor just went viral for suggesting Christians rise up for a civil war (see: Newsweek article). He states that “We were meant to have militias throughout the country to defend our communities…. I think there is going to be a militia movement that unites and supports.”
I disagree. Let’s take a look at chapter 22 in Luke.
I think the key part to consider is verse 38. When they tell Jesus they have two swords, He replies by saying “That’s enough” (38). And the major question we should ask (but most people never ask) is: enough for what? It can’t be enough for overpowering the crowd about to come (47). It wouldn’t even be enough for self-defense against a crowd since they have swords AND clubs (52). Yet Jesus seems to want swords around for what is about to happen.
My answer to the question is that two swords are enough for Jesus to make a profound point in what is about to follow.
Had there not been any swords around, people could have suggested that Jesus would have fought the crowd if He only had weapons available (we need more guns!). But because there are a couple available, Jesus can wait for one of His followers to use it (that’s your cue Peter) and then decisively speak AGAINST them. Then He undoes the damage caused by actually using them. That’s why Jesus’ phrase is so powerful: “No more of this” (51).
Jesus chastises the use of the sword and undoes its effects. It would be like a soldier in war shooting their enemy only to watch Jesus reprimand them for it, take the bullet out, and completely heal that person. It would be a bit silly to argue that Jesus is pro-guns after seeing that. None of this could have happened had there not been a few swords around for a teaching moment.
Therefore, quoting Jesus’ instruction to get a sword (36) without realizing what Jesus is about to do with it is to totally miss the point. Ironically, this verse is often quoted to argue against nonviolence but I think it is one of the strongest Biblical arguments for nonviolence if we follow Jesus. Jesus doesn’t need swords, and neither does His followers. And if we decide to use them anyway, He may just heal our enemies.Jesus doesn't need swords, and neither does His followers. Click To Tweet